By / Jun 27

Last week, the Equality Act was once again introduced into the House of Representatives and the Senate for consideration. This legislation intends to expand the definition of “sex” to include “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” (SOGI) and would revise every title of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to add these categories as new protected classes in the federal code. Last Congress, the Equality Act passed in the House, but the bill died in the Senate. 

The ERLC affirms the full dignity of every human being. At the 2018 Annual Meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention, the Messengers passed a resolution to “reaffirm the sacredness and full dignity and worthiness of respect and Christian love for every single human being, without any reservation.” But the Equality Act does not advance the cause of human dignity. 

If passed, the Equality Act would punish faith-based charities for their core religious beliefs about human dignity and marriage and would undermine decades of civil rights protections for women and girls. The alarmingly detrimental consequences of the bill pose a significant threat to the deeply held religious beliefs of millions of Americans who honor God’s design for sexuality.

What does this bill mean for religious liberty?

This bill would substantially undermine religious liberty protections in the United States. America has long been a place where people with different views and beliefs have lived at peace alongside each other. Though America has not perfectly lived up to this ideal of a shared nation, it was central to our founding as persecuted religious minorities sought safe harbor in this land. Though cleverly named, the Equality Act is out of step with that American ideal. Equality cannot be achieved while eliminating other basic, fundamental freedoms. Of particular note, the bill would essentially gut the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), a bill which passed with broad bipartisan support and was signed by President Clinton.

By undermining RFRA, the Equality Act would force faith-based child welfare organizations to abandon their deeply held religious beliefs or be shut down by the state. The state-forced closures of such agencies is especially detrimental at a time when multiple crises—including the post-pandemic effects and the ongoing opioid epidemic—have led to increases in the number of children in need of services.

What does the bill mean for women and girls?

Most strikingly, the Equality Act undermines decades of hard fought civil rights protections for women and girls. Single gender spaces, such as locker rooms or shelters, would no longer be protected by law. This departure from a legal understanding of gender as male and female makes women and girls vulnerable to biological males being in their private spaces. For example, shelters for those women and girls escaping domestic abuse or homelessness would be forced to house biological men who identify as female. This legislation disregards the privacy and safety concerns women rightly have about sharing sleeping quarters and intimate facilities with the biological opposite sex.

Another example of the harm this legislation poses to women and girls is in athletics and academics. Since 1972, Title IX has advanced women’s sports and scholarship in remarkable ways. If enacted, the Equality Act would threaten female competition as both areas would then be open to biological males as well.

Are there pro-life concerns in the Equality Act?

Yes. The Equality Act would be the most pro-abortion bill ever passed by Congress. It would redefine the term “sex” to also include “pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition.” This language would roll back federal law that protects the consciences of pro-life nurses and physicians who object to participating in abortions because of their deeply held religious or moral beliefs. These conscience protections carry decades of bipartisan consensus—a consensus that no person should be compelled to participate in an act they believe to be gravely immoral. The Equality Act would also jeopardize the longstanding Hyde Amendment that protects federal taxpayer dollars from funding abortion. There is nothing equalizing about forcing Americans to fund abortion through taxpayer dollars.

How has the ERLC been involved?

The ERLC has worked tirelessly to defeat this bill. We have partnered with a broad coalition of more than 85 faith-based nonprofits, religious entities, and institutions of higher education to highlight the dangers of the Equality Act. We have raised these concerns with members of Congress and the administration through coalition letters and countless meetings with members, administration officials, and their staff. We have also engaged in public advocacy against the bill by producing a suite of resources to inform Christians and the broader public about the pernicious threat of the so-called “Equality” Act.

What’s next?

In the prior Democrat-led House, the Equality Act passed 224-206, with three Republicans joining all 221 Democrats. In the 118th Congress, Republicans narrowly hold the majority seats, but the bill is unlikely to make it to the floor for a vote. Two of the three Republicans who voted in favor of the bill are no longer in Congress, which makes it even more difficult for Democrats to force a vote on the bill. Another obstacle is Speaker McCarthy’s commitment to unifying the Republican majority’s voice in the House to present a strong front before the American people. 

While it is unlikely the bill will be passed in this Congress, its continued appearance presents a larger, on-going threat to human dignity and religious liberty. The ERLC will continue to highlight how the Equality Act erodes fundamental freedoms and undermines the ability of Americans of diverse beliefs to work together for the common good.

By / Nov 17

Recently, viewers were given a new season of “The Crown,” the Netflix series that chronicles the life of Queen Elizabeth. In the wake of her death earlier this year, the season is all the more interesting because of the new monarch who sits on the throne, her son, King Charles III. Charles is being dubbed the “climate king.” His concern for the environment has led to controversial mentions of overpopulation in the past. But, where does this idea come from, and how should Christians think about it? 

The myth of overpopulation

In 1968, Stanford entomologist Paul Ehrlich published The Population Bomb, warning that the earth was overpopulated and that millions of people would starve to death. His doomsday warning did not come true. Starvation has occurred on much smaller scales, due largely to government mismanagement and corruption, not overpopulation. 

Yet the myth of overpopulation persists. Ecologist Emma Olliff of the U.K.-based group Population Matters recently said, “More of us is only going to make (the environment) worse. This kind of reasoning was famously cited by Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, who are choosing to have only two children because of global overpopulation. 

At the 2020 World Economic Forum in Davos, famed primatologist Dr. Jane Goodall said that human population growth is responsible for most environmental problems. Goodall stated, “All these (environmental) things we talk about wouldn’t be a problem if there was the size of the population that there was 500 years ago.” Apparently, Goodall pines for the good ol’ days when the average life expectancy was around 40 years of age and infant mortality was around 20%. 

Human life is not the problem, and human death is not the solution. Since the publication of The Population Bomb, several books have debunked the myth of overpopulation, including The Myth of Over-Population (1969) R.J. Rushdoony, Fewer (2004) by Ben Wattenberg, and Population Control (2008) by Steven Mosher. Governments in Japan, Finland, Italy, and Australia (to name a few) are now paying people to have babies. 

Currently, no European country has a population replacement rate of 2.1 babies per woman. Globally, many countries are below the replacement rate, including  China (1.7), Brazil (1.7), Canada (1.5), Puerto Rico (1.1), Thailand (1.5), and Chile (1.7).

In 1968, the fear was global starvation. In 2020, humans wasted an estimated 1.6 billion tons of food at a cost of $1.2 trillion dollars annually. In 1968 the fear was overpopulation. In 2020, under-populated towns and cities paid people to move there. 

Dangers of the myth

Overpopulation is an old myth. Catastrophic predictions about human population and food shortage go back (at least) to 19th-century Anglican pastor and economist Thomas Robert Malthus. In his book An Essay on the Principle of Population, Malthus argued that human population would outpace food production. Malthus advocated preventative measures such as family planning, late marriages, and celibacy. 

Global overpopulation is not only a myth; it is a dangerous myth. Bernie Sanders said that abortion is an important way of addressing global overpopulation. National Public Radio (NPR) has even reported on the research of journalist Mei Fong, who in her book One Child (2016), estimated that China’s one-child policy led to 30 million forced abortions. 

In popular culture, Thanos (of the Marvel Universe) channels his inner Malthus in 2018’s “Avengers: Infinity War,” saying, “The universe is finite, its resources finite, if life is left unchecked, life will cease to exist.” This is the same faulty logic (and bad theology) peddled by Malthus, Ehrlich, Goodall, and Sanders. Unlike in the Marvel Universe, the “bad guys” aren’t always so easy to spot.  

A Christian response

God created marriage between a man and a woman, commanded human procreation, and placed the family as the primary building block of human flourishing in a world that he equipped to accommodate human growth (Gen 1:26-28). He did this, in part, by creating humans with a capacity to solve problems using science and technology. As global population has grown, standards of living and life expectancy have increased while infant mortality and extreme poverty have decreased. Human population growth is not the problem. 

There are a variety of possible ways that Christians can respond to the myth of overpopulation. First, Christians do best when telling the true biblical story of creation, fall, redemption, and restoration. Christians can place the growth of population into the storyline of Scripture where it is a good thing, not a problem to be corrected. It is part of God’s command to fill the earth and steward it. 

Second, local churches can promote and support healthy and normative patterns of human flourishing by offering biblical counseling and parenting services, supporting pregnancy resource centers and adoption and foster care ministries, and by welcoming children and those with special needs into the worship service. In so doing, they evidence that the family is essential to God’s plan for flourishing and the Church has a vested interest in helping strengthen this building block of society. 

Third, Christians cannot allow the sin of materialism to go unchecked. That amounts to aiding and abetting the enemy. Human population growth is only a problem if one accepts the lie that joy, identity, and comfort are found in unchecked consumption and material possessions. There is nothing inherently wrong with living in a large home, owning recreational vehicles, retiring early, or sending your kids to the best schools. However, such things are not the biblical picture of success or an indication of God’s favor and blessing. Christians are to be those who steward the created world, not those who intentionally put off God-ordained gifts because they are controlled by the things of this world.

Conclusion  

Ideas have consequences. Most tragically, the idea of overpopulation has resulted in global mass murder, including calls for expanding abortion access in developing nations where population growth is higher. It is a myth that continues to be used to justify both abortion and suicide. Christians who believe in the sanctity and goodness of human life should expose the myth of overpopulation for what it often is: A pretext for murder and justification for opposing a biblical view of children,family, and procreation.   

By / Oct 24

Recently, President Biden announced that he would set the United States’ annual refugee ceiling for fiscal year 2023 at 125,000. Traditionally, actual resettlement numbers have tracked closely with that number set by the president each year. However, in recent years, the U.S. has fallen far short of that ceiling. This declining resettlement comes at a time of historic displacement around the world. According to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), 89.3 million people, or 1 in every 88 people on earth, have been forcibly displaced with 27.1 million of those meeting the formal definition of a refugee, roughly half of whom are minors. 

In this time of immense need, it is vital that the U.S. go beyond symbolically setting a significant resettlement cap and actually invest in rebuilding a robust system that can meet those goals and help the most vulnerable around the world. In order to improve our resettlement system, it is essential to understand its history, current processes, and the challenges it faces.

The history of U.S. refugee resettlement

The U.S. has a long history of welcoming persecuted peoples and refugees, even going back to the nation’s founding. For much of our history, refugees came to America with little formal process. It largely wasn’t until the 1900s that federal laws and agencies began strictly governing immigration and refugee resettlement. Much of our current system was born out of World War II as Europe was overwhelmed with millions of people displaced by the war and the U.S. began reckoning with its own failures to offer refuge to many Jews and other persecuted groups prior to and during the war.

In 1980, during an influx of refugees following the Vietnam War, Congress passed the Refugee Act of 1980. This law created our modern-day refugee system by adopting a standardized definition of a “refugee,” creating the Office of Refugee Resettlement to oversee resettlement processes, providing the first statutory basis for asylum, and formalizing the United States Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP).

Every year since then, the president has set, through a “Presidential Determination,” a cap for the maximum number of refugees that the U.S. will resettle in that given fiscal year. The highest Presidential Determination ever set was in 1980 at 231,700 and the lowest in 2020 at 18,000, with a historic average of about 95,000 since the program began. Since 1980, the United States has resettled more than 3.1 million refugees, more than any other country in the world.

How are refugees resettled in the U.S.?

Under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), a refugee is “an alien who, generally, has experienced past persecution or has a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.” Those who meet this definition may seek refugee status if they are outside of the U.S. or asylum status if they are physically in the country. The first step for an individual who meets this definition is to register with the UNHCR. The UNHCR then must determine whether the individual qualifies as a refugee and what the best solution for them is. Generally, less than 1% of those who qualify as refugees are ultimately resettled to a third country each year. 

Once an individual is referred by UNHCR for resettlement in the U.S., a network of federal agencies and non-governmental organizations work together to conduct intensive security, biometric, and eligibility screenings. Following these screenings, refugees then must be approved for travel, go through medical exams, and be sponsored by a domestic resettlement agency. Refugees then face final vetting from Customs and Border Patrol upon their arrival to the U.S. Through these rigorous processes, refugees are some of the most thoroughly vetted individuals who come to America. 

Once a refugee is in the U.S., a resettlement agency, in partnership with the U.S. government, works to integrate them into the community and help them successfully start a new life. In previous years, this process would typically take on average 18 to 24 months.

Significant challenges

Though there are few concrete estimates, this already lengthy process now, for a number of reasons, is currently averaging over 5 years. A number of factors have caused incredible slowdowns and backlogs throughout the process that have severely lengthened the amount of time it takes for a refugee to be resettled and limited the number of individuals able to actually be resettled each year, regardless of the cap that is set by the president. Despite the 125,000 cap set by Biden in fiscal year 2022, the U.S. only resettled just over 25,000 refugees.

Because domestic refugee resettlement agencies are funded by the government based on the number of refugees that they resettle, the Trump administration’s decision to significantly curtail resettlement forced an estimated 134 resettlement sites to close and capacity to be cut by about 38%. It has proven to be difficult for resettlement agencies to rebuild their capacity in re-opening locations, rehiring staff, and rebuilding volunteer networks, given the unreliable nature of their funding. Additionally, overseas processing and interviews have been slow to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and Trump-era cuts. Other factors such as understaffing across federal agencies have contributed to a largely unworkable system for many individuals in dire circumstances.

While there are a number of real, logistical challenges facing the resettlement system, at its core, the issue is largely one of political will. If both the Biden administration and Congress wanted to truly fix our resettlement system, they could choose to funnel increased resources to the appropriate federal agencies and create new funding streams for resettlement organizations. Rebuilding the refugee resettlement program is certainly a massive feat, but it is one that can be done if our leaders choose to prioritize it. 

Why does it matter?

In the absence of a nimble and efficient refugee system, our government has turned to a tool known as “humanitarian parole” as a substitute. Humanitarian parole may be used to deliver people quickly to the U.S. in the case of a humanitarian crisis. Over the last year, the U.S. government used this tool to assist Afghans following the withdrawal of U.S. troops and Ukrainians following the invasion of Russia. While this did allow people to be moved out of harm’s way quickly, it came at a cost. Parole is a temporary solution to what is often a long-term crisis. It provides only temporary protection for individuals in the U.S. and does not offer them the resettlement support given to formal refugees. Congress had to act to provide resettlement benefits to Afghans who were evacuated here, and still must act in the future to allow Afghans to stay lawfully in the U.S. moving forward.

Another consequence of our current resettlement system is that a growing number of people find that their only option is to present themselves at the U.S. southern border. If an individual believes that they meet the definition of a refugee but is languishing in backlogs and processing overseas, they may choose to travel to the southern border and seek asylum either at a port of entry or by presenting themselves to a border patrol officer along the border. Over the past year, we’ve seen not just individuals from the “Northern Triangle”⸺ El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras⸺arriving at the border, but people from all over the world who ideally should be processed as refugees closer to home. For example, as the Communist regime in Venezuela has crumbled into a humanitarian crisis over the last year, some 187,000 Venezuelans have made the treacherous journey through the Darién gap and presented themselves for asylum at the southern border. A functioning resettlement system both better serves those who are vulnerable and need to flee while also relieving our overwhelmed resources at the southern border. 

As Americans, it can be easy for us to feel distant from refugees around the world and to wonder why these backlogs and challenges matter. First of all, this matters because these people matter greatly to God, and we are called to love, serve, and work for their good. These issues in the resettlement system are affecting the real lives of some of the most vulnerable people on the planet, and a system that was designed to assist them in finding refuge is often leaving them stranded and unable to receive help in a timely and effective manner.

The Bible is unequivocally clear in its command for Christians to care for the persecuted and vulnerable. Throughout the narrative of Scripture, we see over and over God’s call to care for the immigrant and the refugee as vulnerable people made in the image of God (Matt. 25:35-40, James 1:27). The Southern Baptist Convention has reaffirmed this command to care for the “stranger” among us through numerous resolutions declaring “the value and dignity of immigrants, regardless of their race, religion, ethnicity, culture, national origin, or legal status” and encouraging “people to increase their involvement in resettlement of legal refugees through the enlistment of sponsors and the provision of church-centered ministries.”

Historically, people of faith have led the way in resettling refugees. On a national level, six of the nine agencies that work with the U.S. government to resettle refugees have religious roots that motivate their work. On a local level, last year saw a renewed effort from Christians and churches to assist in resettling the Afghans who were evacuated and paroled into the U.S. We saw churches open their doors, families make meals, and Christians rise up to welcome our new Afghan neighbors. World Relief, a Christian refugee resettlement organization, saw their number of active volunteers double in 2021. Recent polling indicated that 36% of evangelicals have been directly involved in serving refugees and immigrants, and 70% say that the U.S. has a moral responsibility to accept refugees.

Christians care about refugees and are often on the frontlines in serving and welcoming them to our communities. Alongside that important work, we must also continue to advocate and encourage our lawmakers and political leaders to similarly value these vulnerable people and invest the necessary resources to truly allow our nation to once again be a place of refuge for the persecuted.

By / May 18

With more than 26 million refugees and over 82 million forcibly displaced people in the world today, how Christians and churches see migrants and refugees is vitally important. What we believe about God’s mission to seek, save, and reconcile the world to himself through Jesus is revealed, in part, by how we see migrants and refugees when it comes to ministry, care, and concern for them as people made in God’s image and loved by him. For American Christians, the global refugee crisis and presence of vulnerable migrants and asylum seekers at our southern border provides us an opportunity to transcend political and cultural controversies in order to minister and love in the name of Jesus.

In Leviticus 19:33-34, God says to Israel, “When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.” This same ethic was reflected by Jesus in his Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37). This was a specific command for the covenant people of God in ancient Israel, and while modern nation-states have unique responsibilities related to borders and security, the church embodying the character and mission of God has corresponding responsibilities and opportunities when it comes to ministry, mercy, compassion, and justice for the sojourner.

Personalizing our country’s border crisis

Back in 2018 when migrant children, families, and individuals traveling to our southern border were in the news, I remember the concern expressed by many. It can feel overwhelming and scary when we see news reports of large numbers of people coming to our borders to ask for entry. I had worked with immigrant and refugee ministry and advocacy for a few years, but the more cable news I watched and the more images I saw, the more concern I had about what was happening with these new people coming—and the more concern I heard from my neighbors, friends, and other Christians.

What I didn’t yet understand is that a large portion of the people I saw in the news at that time were not trying to come illegally. Many were coming here to claim asylum, which involves a legal process of presenting oneself on United States soil to ask for protection from violence and persecution on the basis of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. The right to claim asylum is established in U.S. Code and is longstanding federal law. Once the request has been made and credible fear has been established by border patrol officers trained in this regard, the asylum seeker is to have their case heard before a court that will judge whether or not the petitioner is granted asylum and allowed to stay. 

But, there was something more important at work for me personally than how our country manages its borders, as vital as that is. As I prayed about all of this, I realized that for me as a Christian and as a private citizen who is not a state agent or Border Patrol officer, I should think first about migrants and asylum seekers as people, as those God desires to come to him, and about opportunities to partner with Christians at the border in ministry. I believe that order at the border is an important part of caring for migrants, as well as providing security for a nation’s citizenry, but, while our government has clear responsibilities in maintaining order and security at our border, which we should support and encourage, the church also has a role in ministering to people in the midst of crisis. Border security and order provided by the government is not mutually exclusive to the church engaging in gospel and compassion ministry to those who come to us seeking refuge. 

Remembering how Jesus responded to the crowds who were harassed and helpless, how he was moved with compassion for them, and how he instructed his disciples to pray that the Lord of the harvest would send out workers into the harvest field (Matt. 9:35-38) will help frame our views of those who come to our borders seeking help. While some rejected the desperate crowds, Jesus saw people he could minister to and love. We can do the same.

Ministry on both sides of the border

I made my first trip to the border at Nogales, Arizona, in late summer 2018 and then to Tijuana in December of that year to visit ministries that were serving migrants from all over the world. I went to El Paso in 2019. Then, as I moved out to California to pastor a church that year, I went back to Tijuana to view what was happening with churches doing ministry there. I began to see the border as a place where people from many nations gathered and where churches on both sides worked behind the scenes to care for those in need, to pray, and to share the love and gospel of Jesus while people waited for legal entry. 

I learned that many of the people who come to the border are already evangelical Christians or come to faith in Christ as they encounter churches who are opening their sanctuaries, homes, and lives to migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers (See World Magazine reporting from Sophia Lee in 2019 explaining border ministry in the Las Cruces-El Paso area). Instead of seeing the border primarily as a place of fear and chaos, I began to also see it as a place where human need and desperation meets the ministry of the church as it holds out the life and hope of Jesus in the midst of a raging storm. God is at work in and through his people in the borderlands. 

In work led by Juvenal Gonzalez working with the San Diego Baptist Association and Mexican Baptist churches, I have seen people from many nations receive food, shelter, love, and the gospel at the El Chaparral Gate in Tijuana while they live in tents and wait. I joined with Ed Litton, current SBC president, and other SBC leaders in August 2021 to connect again with this ministry and to provide care, hope, and breakfast to hundreds of migrants who were there waiting for a chance for their asylum claim to be heard. Recently, Gonzalez and the churches on both sides of the San Diego-Tijuana border fed and ministered to hundreds of Ukrainian refugees a day who traveled to Tijuana to wait and petition for protection in the U.S. California Baptist Disaster Relief, Send Relief, and the North American Mission Board (NAMB) stepped in and provided assistance as well. 

In October of 2021, I visited the El Paso Migrant Ministry Center at Scotsdale Baptist Church that works in partnership with the El Paso (TX) Baptist Association. I saw a church that transformed their facility to make room for migrants that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Border Patrol brought to them for care. The ministry center now works with NAMB to receive teams and volunteers from around the country to minister to the dozens of migrants who are brought to them each day. 

I have visited churches and seen ministries in border towns that altered their ministries to make room to provide places for people to stay while they transition to other parts of the country. While I’ve never visited Brownsville, Texas, I’ve heard about the ministry of West Brownsville Baptist Church and others who have cared for and seen many come to Christ through the work of receiving migrants. Just last fall, I heard from Mexican border officials in Juarez, across the border from El Paso, tell us that the churches on the Mexico side were making all the difference in providing care and ministry during the migrant surges. When the Mexican government doesn’t know what to do with the people who come to them, they turn to the churches for physical and spiritual help and resources. The U.S. government often does the same thing.

Christians along the U.S.-Mexico border are acting in the name of Jesus to bring hope and order out of chaos, pain, displacement, rejection, and desperate need. When I ask pastors on both sides of the border why they engage in this ministry of welcome, they are always confused by the question. They’ve told me that they do this because this is what Jesus does and it is who he is. They see no other way to follow him in their context than to welcome and minister to the stranger who comes to them.

This kind of ministry doesn’t just happen along the border. It is happening everywhere, from South Carolina to California. Recently, I spoke with an Afghan man in Northern California who told me that many of the Afghan refugees he’s met know they are being received and treated well in America because of the influence of Christians and churches who follow the Bible and are welcoming and loving from the heart. This man was not a Christian, and he came from a Muslim background, but he said it was clear that the teachings of Jesus had an influence on how Christians welcomed his fellow countrymen. He recounted stories of pastors bringing Afghan refugees to his store to buy supplies for them with their own money. This left an impression on him as he recognized that their faith led them to act in kindness toward others. He let us pray with him at the end of our conversation.

More migrants coming?

We will continue to have opportunities to welcome and minister to immigrants and refugees in the name of Jesus, either at the border or in towns across our country. The COVID-19 pandemic public health order called Title 42, which allowed the U.S. government to suspend asylum law and expel migrants without hearing their claims in court, is set to expire in late May. With this potential change in policy and the possible full renewal of the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP or Remain in Mexico), expectations are rising that there will be a significant increase in the number of migrants coming to our southern border seeking asylum and refuge. 

While concern grows over this development, churches on both sides of the border will continue to represent Christ and minister to people in need who come to them. In addition, churches all over the country have the opportunity to join with these border churches and ministries to support their ongoing front-line work in ministering to the sojourner. While our government and Border Patrol have a job to do in keeping order and security as they manage the border, battle cartels and human and drug smuggling, and enforce our laws, the church also has a role in helping those in deep need who enter our country. And, with the arrival of Ukrainian and Afghan refugees over the past several months, along with others from around the world, the opportunities to receive and minister to the nations that have come to us are potentially greater than ever before. To learn more about this, you can watch the recent webinar hosted by the ERLC.

As the world continues to experience wars and rumors of wars, natural disasters, corruption, and persecution, Christians in America have an opportunity to welcome refugees fleeing violence and support fellow believers engaging in ministry along both sides of our own southern border. Our first response to migrants and refugees should not be fear or rejection. Instead, we should prayerfully ask God what he might be doing through these circumstances and how we can join him to tell a better story by bearing the burdens of others and thus fulfill the law of Christ (Gal. 6:2).

By / Apr 4

Brenna and Grove Norwood have given their lives to remembering those who are in prison (Heb. 13:3) through The Heart of Texas Foundation. Together with their staff, donors, and other partners, Brenna, the director of programs, and Grove, the CEO, watch God transform men and women in the midst of very difficult circumstances. The work is not easy, but it is a testament to what God will do when Christians obey his Word by carrying the gospel to and caring for those among us who are in great need — physically and spiritually. Below, Brenna answers a few questions about prison ministry and how Christ brings light and hope to the darkest of places. 

Lindsay Nicolet: Tell us a little bit about the Heart of Texas Foundation and what led to its inception?

Brenna Norwood: The Heart of Texas Foundation was born out of a desire to serve those who have nothing to give back in return and the literal poor. In the earliest days, it began with Grove asking in every part of the community, “Who is the poorest person you know?” In the process, we began to visit prisons because the Lord clearly commands us to remember the prisoner.

LN: How did the Lord lead you into prison ministry? 

BN: Our church was volunteering in prisons. By going, we began to learn how the church interacts with the corrections system and how the corrections system thinks and works. It became clear that there are prisons within prison, such as the inner prison referred to in Acts 16:24 which Paul and Silas experienced. In addition, most programming offered for the prisoner is understandably focused on men and women who are finishing their sentence. 

Programming and access to men and women in the inner prison and those with long prison sentences remains minimal, yet this is where our work lies. We are occasionally still asked by those we serve who might not yet know the Lord, “Why do you keep coming back?” Our answer truly is in 2 Corinthians 5:13-15, specifically the love of Christ compels and controls us.

LN: The hallmark of your foundation is the Texas Field Ministers program. What comprises this program? 

BN: The Texas Field Ministers Program focuses on men and women with extremely long prison sentences. It consists of two related parts: 1.) Education and 2.) Service. The men and women who are our students in The Heart of Texas Foundation | College of Ministry pursue the Bachelor of Arts in Applied Ministry. Upon graduation, they are sent in teams of two or more to serve as Field Ministers for the remainder of their sentence, an official job title within the Texas Department of Criminal Justice that allows them to reach men and women in the inner prison.

LN: What led to the focus of the foundation being education in ministry? Why is this so important? 

BN: Prisons are full of men and women who caused great harm. They are full of men and women who have been the recipients of great harm. The Texas Field Ministers Program allows an entirely new identity to exist for the man or woman with a long prison sentence — an identity other than the crime they committed, the peer-to-peer inmate culture, or the mentality brought on by institutionalization. If a man or woman has a long prison sentence, how can they show that they have met the rehabilitative goals of society or the prison system itself if they are not given the opportunity to display such evidence on a daily basis? The Bachelor of Arts in Applied Ministry takes four and a half years to complete. We developed the 42-course curriculum after 10 years of experience in this work specifically to give men and women time to learn, grow, and prove they can be trusted with an opportunity to serve others as a Texas Field Minister. 

Even though men and women are familiar with the environment they are living in, that alone does not equip them to minister effectively in the storm of trauma and life they run into amongst their peers. To impact the culture of the prison for good and for the Lord, that takes equipment, support, and time met best through excellent Christ-centered education from godly men and women of integrity relying on the Lord for his ultimate work in each student’s life. Our United States Coast Guard, for example, has a rescue helicopter and crew equipped for the most extreme conditions. While they won’t use everything they know in every situation, everything they know will serve them well in any situation. That’s why education — Christ-centered discipleship is important for Texas Field Ministers equipped with the gospel to go into the darkest of places. 

LN: How have you seen the Field Ministers program transform the lives of prisoners? 

BN: Men and women have come to faith in Christ among the student body. Men and women share the good news of Jesus Christ with others in an informed and relational way such that the body of Christ is strengthened in a manner that volunteers alone cannot do. Men and women in the Texas Field Ministers Program have credibility with their peers so long as they maintain a consistent lifestyle. 

The good news of Jesus in the hearts of men and women creates ripple effects of his goodness and order. The men and women we serve consistently begin to reach out to their children in a new and unselfish way (Malachi 4:6; 2 Corinthians 5:18-21). Every crime creates a ripple effect — the victim of the crime, the family of the victim, the family of the perpetrator, and society. Studies show that 7-8 out of 10 children will follow their parent into prison. The gospel can change that. We have witnessed that many, many times.

LN: Why should Christians care about and for prisoners? What does the Bible say about it? 

BN: Four books of the New Testament were written by Paul from prison. The Lord commands us to remember the prisoner in Hebrews 13:3 and sees when we do according to Matthew 25:36. Spiritually speaking, prison is a state that we are all in before Christ according to Galatians 3:22, mercy from which we can only receive from God according to Romans 11:32. We cannot escape the reality of prison. The Lord builds this into every human life. 

When we visit the prisoner in the name of Christ Jesus, his grace is built into that visit so that it is a blessing not just for the one in prison, but for the visitor as well. Prison is an awful, dark place, yet the light of Christ shines brightly there among those who are his. It’s not easy to go. Going has a way of refining all of your deepest held beliefs about life. We have found that only Christ and the work of the cross restores us after each visit.

LN: How would you advise Christians who have a desire to serve in prison ministry but don’t know where to start? 

BN: There are so many faithful men and women in the body of Christ visiting the prisoner without fanfare — just beautifully faithful. Prayerfully ask and seek those who are already doing some of the work. Where you begin might not be where the Lord leads you to serve ultimately. Ask questions. Be willing to learn. Be willing to listen. When you go, respect the authority on the prison unit. You will encounter a broken, slow system, but the prison system has reasons for why they do everything, primarily having to do with safety and security including yours — respect the authority that is there. That authority begins with the newest correctional officer. Expect to serve and not be served from the time you enter the parking lot to the time you leave.

LN: What are some of the misconceptions about and challenges of ministering to prisoners? And how can Christians have a correct view of prison ministry and faithfully steward this calling? 

BN: Misconceptions regarding prisoners are many: 1.) That prisoners are lower in intelligence or in their ability to learn (However, it is true that literacy levels are very low in prison across the population, but literacy is not an intelligence issue. So often, it’s an instructional casualty issue or a casualty of a life of the chaos one did not choose to grow up in.)  2.) That they must all be from the same socioeconomic background and therefore race must not be as big as an issue. Times have changed; if you asked your church family for a show of hands if they have someone in their family who has been incarcerated in the criminal justice system on any level, many hands would go up that might be surprising.

Misconceptions about prison ministry might be summed up in that prison ministry is not for the weird, biker-type Christian or the former drug addict. Every Christian is called to visit the prisoner. Remember those bound in chains. According to Christ, we may very well end up there ourselves just for following him. We can learn a lot from Paul who said that nothing but prison and hardships awaited him. “But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24). 

LN: What are some of the greatest needs of prisoners, and how can Christians rise up to help meet some of them? 

BN: They need the body of Christ to come and visit them. They need a Field Minister — a mature man or woman of God living beside them who can help them in their greatest hour of need at any time of day. They need the gospel deeply planted in their hearts and minds. They do not need people to feel sorry for them; they need people to love them unselfishly with the love of Christ who keep coming back to visit them — the impact is in the returning.

LN: If someone wanted to start something like this in their area, how would they begin? 

BN: Call us, we would love to talk. 281-850-8103 or [email protected]. You can do it with the Lord’s help and a few careful, prayerful steps. North Carolina, Wisconsin, Oregon, and Texas all have experience; we are colleagues in the work each of us is a part of in our states. We would be glad to connect you with our peers.

By / Jan 31

For nearly 30 years now, as a way of monitoring severe and ongoing opposition to Christianity, Open Doors has published what it calls the annual World Watch List — a “ranking of the 50 countries where Christians face the most extreme persecution.” For those of us in the West who enjoy an unprecedented level of religious liberty, the World Watch List is a sobering reminder that our brothers and sisters around the world face real and present danger simply for following Jesus.

What is Open Doors?

Open Doors began in 1955 when a man known as Brother Andrew “started smuggling Bibles to the persecuted Christians in Communist Europe.” After a visit to Warsaw, Poland, Brother Andrew’s encounter with an “oppressed, isolated, and apparently forgotten church” compelled him to travel throughout Eastern Europe for the next twelve years, “delivering Bibles, encouraging those he met, and recruiting others to help him.” After the publication of God’s Smuggler in 1967 — an account of Brother Andrew’s work in Eastern Europe — his ministry became known worldwide, and “an entire generation caught the vision of supporting Christians who faced persecution and discrimination for their faith.”

Over time, Open Doors’ work “pushed beyond the Soviet Union,” expanding into Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Today, Open Doors “is serving persecuted Christians in more than 70 countries, working with churches and local partners to provide Bibles, Christian materials, training, livelihood skills and advocacy.” The aim of Open Doors “is to encourage and raise up people in every nation to pray, support and speak up for Christians around the world who suffer for their faith.”

What is the World Watch List?

As mentioned, “The World Watch List is Open Doors’ annual ranking of the 50 countries where Christians face the most extreme persecution.” More than that, the World Watch List is an interactive tool that enables users to “explore the country profiles to find information, stories and prayers for each of the countries, along with ways that [Christians] can stand with [their] persecuted church family in prayer and action.”

In addition to the annual ranking, the list apprises readers of information such as the percentage of Christians persecuted worldwide (along with each specific region), the number of churches attacked and Christians detained or murdered annually, and country-specific information like its dominant religion and system of government. 

Truly, the World Watch List is a tool of immense value, aiding Christians like us on how we can pray for and serve those who find themselves in locations hostile to Christianity.

How are countries on the World Watch List analyzed?

“Countries are ranked by the severity of persecution of Christians, calculated by analyzing the level of violent persecution plus the pressure experienced in five spheres of life,” which include private life, family life, community life, national life, and church life.

For a more detailed look at Open Doors’ methodology, visit this site

What did the 2022 World Watch List reveal?

According to the report, “In just the last year (during their reporting period), there have been:

• Over 360 million Christians living in places where they experience high levels of persecution and discrimination.

5,898 Christians killed for their faith.

5,110 churches and other Christian buildings attacked.

6,175 believers detained without trial, arrested, sentenced or imprisoned.

3,829 Christians abducted.”

Additionally, the report revealed that “1 in 7 Christians are persecuted worldwide,” “1 in 5 Christians are persecuted in Africa,” and “2 in 5 Christians are persecuted in Latin America.”

By and large, the majority of countries on the list are located within Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, but three countries in North and South America (Mexico, Cuba, and Colombia) are on the list as well. After 20 years atop the list, North Korea was replaced as number one on the World Watch List by Afghanistan, due largely to the Taliban takeover in August 2021.

Alarmingly, Open Doors highlighted in this year’s trends that “persecution of Christians has reached the highest levels since the World Watch List began nearly 30 years ago.” The report states that:

“Every country in the top 50 is ranked as experiencing ‘very high’ or ‘extreme’ levels of persecution. Outside of the top 50, an additional 26 countries are categorised as having ‘very high’ or ‘high’ levels of persecution. The severity of persecution in countries on the list, demonstrated by the total points scored, has increased by more than 20% since 2014. This signifies an increased pressure in all areas of life for persecuted Christians.”

Nevertheless, “God is building his church and people are coming to faith even in hostile environments . . . The World Watch List shows once again that against all odds, the church is active and alive . . . God’s faithfulness remains a beacon even in the most dangerous places on earth to be a Christian.”

What can Christians do?

As Christians, no matter how many miles separate us from these men, women, and children, they are our brothers and sisters. Regardless of how helpless we may feel, being so far removed from such hostile contexts, or how big the problem is (over 360 million Christians!), we have the opportunity to “stand with them in solidarity, and remind them they are not alone.” 

Open Doors gives several ways we can stand with our brothers and sisters, including:

And because Christians believe that God works providentially through our prayers, we can all commit to using the World Watch List to inform us how we can be praying for believers around the world who endure such unimaginable terror. By doing so, we can be certain that God will use our prayers to encourage and minister to Christians in these countries. 

By / Jan 3
By / Nov 4

In December, 127 Worldwide will celebrate a decade of ministry. We exist to connect and equip the global body of Christ to restore hope to orphans, widows, and vulnerable communities. And we work with Christians and churches in the West and with respected, driven, and visionary local leaders in Kenya, Uganda, and Guatemala who are taking care of vulnerable people in their communities. 

God has exceeded every expectation I had for starting a nonprofit organization in 2011. This was certainly not my plan in life. I used to think this was a unique element of my story, but does anyone’s life actually turn out exactly the way that they plan? The last 10 years have been full of  the hardest and simultaneously most rewarding adventures that God has ever invited me to join. 

Recently, someone on our team suggested that I reflect on 10 lessons that God has taught me during 10 years of leading our organization. This list is not exhaustive, but I hope it will be encouraging and useful to you as you seek to live out true religion in the various ways God has called you (James 1:27). 

1. Trust that God will open and shut appropriate doors

As an executive director of a nonprofit organization, so many decisions wait for your input. Many times I have prayed, “God, you know me, and you know where I most need help. Please make it obvious to me what you’d have me do.” I rely on the faithfulness that God has demonstrated in the past to grow my trust that he will open and shut the correct doors in his perfect timing. I have learned to walk through open doors and not to push through shut doors. Sometimes this has not been easy to learn, but my confidence in God’s faithfulness has definitely grown in the last 3,650 days.

2. Self-awareness is key and will keep you humble. 

Vulnerability is somewhat tied to this lesson, too. I have degrees in counseling and psychology, so I have always enjoyed personality inventories to learn more about myself. I’ve learned that you have to be honest with yourself and your team as you consider what is the best use of the time you devote to your work. I know where I am strong, and (just as importantly) I know where I am weak. I make it a goal to spend 80% of my time working in areas where I am the best qualified person on staff to do the task. I want to invest my time wisely in things no one else can do as well. Likewise, I am very aware of the areas where I am not the best person for the job. 

3. Surround yourself with people who are gifted in your areas of weakness. 

This was a lesson that my dad taught me at an early age, but it has been consistently reinforced in the last 10 years. It takes self awareness and vulnerability to admit your weakness. However, this has been a huge shaper of our culture at 127. I am quick to announce my weaknesses and even recommend other people on our team who would be a better fit for some tasks. Just as Paul explained in 1 Corinthians 12, we are one body with many members. We need each other to accomplish our best work. Humbly embrace that you need other people to work to your full potential.

4. Trust your gut

Now this isn’t an “always rule.” We know that the heart is deceitful above all else (Jeremiah 17:9) apart from Christ. Of course, we have to examine what the Holy Spirit might be doing and walk confidently in the way that we sense God leading us. There have been times, though, when the logical solution didn’t feel like the best solution. I have learned what “trust your gut” looks like for me. It is not a card that I play very often, but I have grown in confidence when this tactic is appropriate. 

5. The (lack of) rhythm is going to get you. 

Healthy rhythms in ministry leadership are a must. It’s okay to calendar time for reading, writing, and spending time with God, family, and friends. Boundaries are healthy. Saying no is healthy. Maintaining rhythm in your life and work is crucial. The quickest way for me to spiral downward is to lose sight of the disciplines that are tethering me to a firm foundation. Solitude, prayer, and journaling are just a few habits that encourage routine. Prioritize routines as much as possible. 

6. Stop. Collaborate. And Listen

Technically, these could be three separate directives. Before executing your new and fresh ideas, wisdom and maturity requires you to pause, see who else is doing similar work, and make an attempt to work together if possible. Ask good questions, but then do less talking and more listening. Ministry should not be a competition. Find like-minded people who make you better as you spend time with them. Learning this lesson has been truly life-giving for me.

7. The leader in a group may be the quiet one. 

One might assume that the loudest voice in the room is the strongest leader. To that, I say one of the few French sayings that I know, “Au contraire mon frere!” A colleague once noticed that I direct conversations even though I am usually not the one who is doing the most talking. People love to talk about themselves, and you can learn so much if you learn to ask good questions. Also, if you are quiet until you really feel compelled to say something, then most of the time people will listen intently as you provide evidence to support that you have something worth listening to. 

8. Beware of burnout

Burning the candle at both ends will lead to a puddle of wax. I definitely learned this lesson the hard way. I hit the 7-year wall where I woke up one day realizing that I was spending most of my time doing things that I was not gifted to do and that I wasn’t passionate about doing. I was cranking out essential tasks purely out of obligation. Somewhere along the way, I lost my joy for the work. 

You will always have tasks in your job that you don’t love, but operating the majority of your time outside of your giftings greatly increases your chances of burnout. Compassion fatigue is a real struggle in this work of empowering local leaders who are serving vulnerable populations. Taking time out for rest and self-care is essential to prevent the previously mentioned puddle of wax.

9. Don’t shy away from hard conversations. 

I am markedly more comfortable with conflict and difficult conversations than I was a decade ago, and I am definitely better for it. God can use the process through difficult discussions to make both parties look more like Christ as the end result. Advance, don’t retreat. Spend time building trust and respect among your team and ministry partners. Then, when tough conversations are necessary, you have established a baseline for the message to be received on top of a firm foundation.    

10. Stay in a posture of openhandedness. 

Choose carefully the hills that you are willing to die on. These hills should be few and far between. The last few years have been years of growth and clarity for 127 Worldwide. As God has expanded our team, I’ve had to figure out my nonnegotiables for the direction of the ministry. One of my most important jobs as the executive director is to guard the mission and vision of the organization. It is okay if others are forging a path that looks very different than the one you would have taken. You should expect that. 

What is important is that the team is passionate about the work and equipped to succeed in building their path. The results are up to God. Freedom grows as open hands release people, plans, and expectations. Disappointment comes when we hold too tightly to any of these. Open hands are not capable of holding on to anything, but they can easily receive what God has for you.

I am grateful that God gives us opportunities to grow in Christlikeness through every step of obedience that we take. I look forward to seeing all of the new lessons that await me in the next decade. And I encourage you to pray about what steps of obedience God might be leading you to take. 

By / Oct 19

Yesterday, the Senate released the remaining appropriations bills, and Congress must now either complete appropriations work or pass another continuing resolution by the end of December 3. On September 30, Congress passed a short-term Continuing Resolution (CR) to fund the government through December 3. 

On July 29, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a seven-bill minibus, which included Agriculture, Energy and Water Development, Financial Services and General Government, Interior, Environment, Labor, HHS, Education and Transportation, HUD. Additionally, the House passed the Legislative Branch and State, Foreign Operations bills as stand alone bills.

Southern Baptists affirm the full dignity of every human being and that every life is  worthy of protection, beginning with the unborn. We believe life begins at conception and that abortion denies precious human lives both personhood and protection. Scripture is clear that every person is made in the image of God and his knowledge of each of us even precedes the creative act of conception (Jer. 1:5; Psalm 139:13). At the 2018 Annual Meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention, the messengers passed a resolution to “reaffirm the sacredness and full dignity and worthiness of respect and Christian love for  every single human being, without any reservation.”  

The ERLC is committed to conscience protection policies because they uphold two of our most closely held convictions. First, we work to protect the consciences of our neighbors because we believe religious freedom is an inalienable human right, thankfully secured as the first freedom in the Bill of Rights. Second, protecting healthcare workers from the coercive power of the profit-seeking, on-demand abortion industry is a pro-life responsibility.  

The ERLC opposes appropriation riders that deny religious freedom and conscience  protections to millions of Americans. Efforts to codify sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes under federal law have explicitly included attempts to roll back religious freedom and conscience protections. Many of the riders discussed below do the same. As the ERLC has long maintained, a government that is able to pave over the conscience is one that has the unlimited ability to steamroll dissent on any issue.

The FY2022 appropriations bills are troubling because they removes several longstanding pro-life riders from the budget. For the first time since 1976, the Hyde Amendment has not been included in the Labor-HHS appropriations bill. The Hyde Amendment prevents Medicaid from covering the cost of abortion. At the 2021 Annual Meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention, messengers unanimously approved a resolution condemning efforts to strip Hyde from any federal appropriations bill and called upon Congress to uphold all pro-life riders.

Additionally, the appropriations bills removed the Weldon Amendment for the first time since 2005. The amendment protects the rights of conscience for healthcare professionals and institutions by preventing HHS from denying funding to recipients that refuse to provide, pay for, or refer for abortion. The budget would also prohibit any president from reinstituting the Mexico City Policy, reestablished and expanded by President Donald Trump as the Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance policy.

In September, we joined dozens of pro-life coalition partners in sending Congress a letter, uring them to oppose any legislation that fails to maintain Hyde protection. This October, ERLC’s acting president, Brent Leatherwood sent Senate leadership a letter urging them to defend protections against federal funds being used for abortion and to ensure that pro-life spending riders are approved in all spending legislation passed in the 117th Congress. And also urged Congress to remove harmful provisions that would exclude people of faith from serving the most vulnerable. 

Each year, the ERLC is actively engaged in the appropriations process, working alongside committee and leadership offices to ensure that important pro-life, religious liberty, and conscience protections are included. The ERLC will continue to advocate for these pro-life provisions and other legislative measures that reflect God’s gracious love for every human life. 

By / Oct 13

The end of the year is always busy on Capitol Hill, as Congress wraps up their remaining legislative work. There’s a handful of “must-pass” pieces of legislation that are seen as critical for  the U.S. government to continue operating. Before the end of 2021, Congress must pass a budget to fund the government, pass the ​​National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), and raise the debt ceiling again. Additionally, Congressional Democrats want to use reconciliation to pass President Biden’s “Build Back Better” policy agenda.

The ERLC is actively involved in monitoring these pieces of legislation and advocating for the inclusion of pro-life policies (such as the Hyde Amendment) and the removal of harmful sexual orientation and gender identity language. We regularly work with committee and leadership offices to advocate for pro-life provisions and other legislative measures that recognize God’s gracious love for every human life and protect our freedom to live according to our deeply held religious beliefs. 

As the Legislative Branch wraps up its work for the first session of the 117th Congress, here are some of the ERLC’s top priorities for the rest of the year.

Appropriations

The FY2022 House appropriations bill is troubling because it removes several longstanding pro-life riders from the budget. For the first time since 1976, the Hyde Amendment has not been included in the Labor-HHS appropriations bill. The Hyde Amendment prevents Medicaid from covering the cost of abortion. At the 2021 Annual Meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention, messengers unanimously approved a resolution condemning efforts to strip Hyde from any federal appropriations bill and called upon Congress to uphold all pro-life riders.

Additionally, the appropriations bills removed the Weldon Amendment for the first time since 2005. The amendment protects the rights of conscience for healthcare professionals and institutions by preventing HHS from denying funding to recipients that refuse to provide, pay for, or refer for abortion. The budget would also prohibit any president from reinstituting the Mexico City Policy, reestablished and expanded by President Donald Trump as the Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance policy.

The ERLC sent congressional leadership a letter urging them to adhere to critical pro-life policy riders, including the Hyde Amendment, and we joined dozens of pro-life coalition partners in sending congressional leadership a similar letter. The U.S. House of Representatives has passed the appropriations bills. As the Senate works on the bills, we strongly urge Senate leadership to ensure that important pro-life and conscience-protecting riders are included. 

Opposing the Women’s Health Protection Act of 2021

In September, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill titled the “Women’s Health Protection Act of 2021.” This legislation is one of the most pro-abortion bills to have ever passed the House. The bill removes all restrictions and limits on abortion and allows for abortion up to the point of birth. Additionally, this bill removes all pro-life protections at the federal and state levels and eliminates a state’s ability to legislate on abortion. This bill also fails to protect the consciences of American taxpayers and would force taxpayer dollars to pay for abortions. Longstanding pro-life protections such as the Hyde Amendment and the Weldon Amendment would be removed.

Despite the bill’s name, vulnerable women and families will only be put more at risk if the Women’s Health Protection Act were to ever become law. Additionally, abortion is not healthcare. If human dignity is given to each person when created in the womb, then abortion is not only an assault on the image of God but also causes irreparable harm on a vulnerable life. We believe abortion denies precious human lives both personhood and protection, and therefore cannot be considered as healthcare.

Senators Schumer, Murray, Blumenthal, and Durbin issued a joint statement, promising to bring the bill to the Senate floor “soon” for consideration. ​​

The ERLC is strongly opposed to this bill and any effort to legalize abortion. We urge the Senate not to pass this destructive piece of legislation. It would put thousands of vulnerable, preborn lives at risk and steamroll over the the consciences of millions of Americans who do not wish to pay for or be compelled to provide abortions.

Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act

The Southern Baptist Convention was the first denomination to pass a resolution specifically labeling what’s happening to the Uyghur people as a genocide. The ERLC advocated for the Trump administration to make an official determination that the People’s Republic of China is “committing genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang, China, for targeting Uyghur Muslims and members of other ethnic and religious minority groups.” On the last day of the Trump administration, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made a genocide determination, and the U.S. became the first country to adopt these terms to describe the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) unconscionable human rights abuses in its far northwest. The Biden administration has maintained that the genocide against the Uyghur people is “ongoing.” 

While the genocide determination was an important step in countering the CCP the U.S. House of Representatives should swiftly pass the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act. The bill unanimously passed the Senate earlier this year. This bipartisan and bicameral piece of legislation prohibits goods made with forced labor in Xinjiang or by entities using Uyghur labor forcibly transferred from Xinjiang from entering the U.S. market. This legislation also instructs the U.S. government to impose sanctions against any foreign person who knowingly engages in the forced labor of Uyghurs and other Muslim minority groups in Xinjiang.

For further reading:

Adoptee Citizenship Act 

Prior to the Child Citizenship Act of 2000, the administrative steps for an adoptive family were unnecessarily burdensome. In addition to the lengthy adoption process, families had to engage in a lengthy naturalization process for their children. The Child Citizenship Act of 2000 streamlined the process, and granted automatic citizenship to all foreign-born children brought to the United States, who had at least one parent who was a U.S. Citizen. While the intercountry adoption process remains a lengthy one, taking anywhere from one to four years, adoptive families no longer have to worry about the lengthy naturalization process.

Unfortunately, the Child Citizenship Act of 2000 did not include adoptees who were 18 and older when the law took effect. This loophole left people legally adopted as children and raised in the United States without citizenship. The exclusion resulted in numerous difficulties for impacted adoptees. Because of a lack of citizenship, everyday activities for these individuals like obtaining a driver’s license, receiving financial aid at college, applying for jobs, working for the government, or traveling abroad are restricted.

The Adoptee Citizenship Act fixes this problem by making citizenship automatic for international adoptees who were legally adopted by U.S. citizens as children, regardless of their age when the Child Citizenship Act took effect. The Adoptee Citizenship Act has large bipartisan and bicameral support. The ERLC is engaged with a broad coalition invested in child welfare to urge members of Congress to swiftly pass this bill and secure permanent citizenship for the thousands of impacted adoptees. The bill’s passage would be an important step to ensuring that adoptees are treated the same way under the law as natural born citizen

For further reading:

In addition to our Congressional advocacy, the 2021-22 term of the U.S. Supreme Court is in full swing, and the ERLC has submitted a number of amicus briefs on cases that could have major implications on both religious liberty and life issues. The ERLC will always advocate for life, religious liberty and human flourishing before Congress, the courts, and in the public square.